Thursday, May 31, 2012

Episode 1347: Lim Tzay-Chuen's Mike - A Wasted Opportunity?

I've accepted that I most likely won't write anything new for my dissertation until I get back to Warwick. However, I have been reading articles today, and the more I read, the more I'm convinced that my thesis makes sense. I think I might've even found a book that helps to support my idea of the Merlion as a liminal figure. Having read the essays in the exhibition catalogue for Lim Tzay-Chuen's Mike, I find it incredibly difficult not to see that as a huge missed opportunity to imbue the Merlion with renewed, reimagined significance for Singaporeans (as opposed to tourists). Lim's arguments in favour of temporarily relocating the Merlion for the 2005 Venice Biennale are compelling, and I can't help but think that the reason he was turned down was because some petty bureaucrat did a cost-benefit analysis and decided that there would be no tangible economic benefits reaped from the relocation, focusing instead on the very real costs of the relocation and the potential adverse impact on the tourist dollar of one of the city-state's iconic photography spots disappearing. What I also find curious is that the Merlion poems in the anthology don't draw on this incident for inspiration, not even among the newer poems, despite making reference to a 2009 incident when the Merlion was struck by lightning and damaged. Perhaps the failure of Lim's proposal to be realised has made it seem less of a commentary on the Merlion, in comparison to something as graphically tangible as being struck by lightning? Or perhaps Lim's artwork has just slipped off the radar. I must confess that I wouldn't have heard of it either, had I not been trawling the Internet for all manner of Merlion-related material. All in all, it seems like a wasted chance, in a way oddly representative of short-sighted bureaucratic thinking.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Episode 1346: Halved My Pending Reviews At Last!

Finally wrote the chapbook review this afternoon, so I'm down to four pending reviews. Could probably write another one tomorrow of Phil Jourdan's book, but I'd quite like to crack on with some degree-related work for a change. Have made small steps by reading three collections of AIDS elegies this week, i.e. Mark Doty's My Alexandria, Thom Gunn's The Man With Night Sweats, and Paul Monette's Love Alone: 18 Elegies For Rog. The most moving was the Monette, but at the same time, I also came away with the sense that the collections were addressing themselves to different points in the process of grieving/mourning. Monette's is the pain of acute loss, while Gunn's rage and grief has gone through more processing. Doty's collection is interesting in that if I hadn't seen it mentioned in an article about AIDS and elegy, I wouldn't have considered it to be in the same category as the other two volumes. Wonder if these differences can be reworded into something more academically rigorous? Would definitely make for an interesting argument, considering my essay is trying to contrast strategies of approaching poetry as consolation. I don't necessarily want to conclude that one poet does it better than the other, between Gunn and Monette, so phrasing the argument in terms of certain ways of writing speaking better to certain points in the mourning process seems like a more neutral form of comparison. Also, Edwin Thumboo did get back to me after all! Was heartened to learn that he thinks the research I'm doing will make an important contribution to the study of local literature and that he would like to see a copy of the dissertation when it's done.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Episode 1345: Some Things I Really Like Right Now

An album, a book, a film. So Kris Allen (aka the guy who beat Adam Lambert to be crowned winner of Season 8 of American Idol) has finally released a sophomore album Thank You Camellia, and it's amazing. The production is crisp but not overly glossy, and Allen's vocals are brilliant. Given the music industry these days, you really have to respect a guy who can nail his falsetto on an acoustic track. Anyway, it's really refreshing to encounter a pop album that's not about sex, drugs or clubbing. When Allen sings about love, it's so earnest that should the album fail to find success, it's more an indictment of what our cultural norms are than the album's quality. (In fact, the only misstep in the album is the inclusion of a club remix as one of the bonus tracks. The remix has its moments, but on the whole is a perplexingly anaemic affair for a club track.) Another thing I'm appreciating at the moment is Phil Jourdan's Praise Of Motherhood. I got this from a Goodreads giveaway, and Scott's agreed to my reviewing it for The Cadaverine, but it was only today, while agonising over what book to take with me for my MRT ride to HarbourFront, that I impulsively picked it up from the pile of books on my table. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and powerful writing. Expect a link to a review soon! Finally, I met Ben Woon to catch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, or the film that Thomas Docherty told us made him cry when he saw it. I can see why though, definitely caught myself starting to tear up during some scenes. There's just something about the mix of dry British humour and heartwarming storylines that makes for a very charming film. I don't mean that in the slightly condescending sense that 'charming' can be used these days (like 'quaint'); I just genuinely feel it's very appealing. Also nice to see a film that doesn't blatantly rely on the sex appeal of a youthful cast to sell itself (but the roguish Ronald Pickup was excellent), although I did enjoy Dev Patel's character. (Is he in danger of getting typecast though?) Definitely a film worth seeing if you haven't!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Episode 1344: Another Eunoia Review Milestone!

Still haven't written the review, but I did start reading for my EN954 essay. Have read Mark Doty's My Alexandria, which I enjoyed but don't think I'll be able to fit into my essay. Am now reading Paul Monette's West Of Yesterday, East Of Summer, but that doesn't contain the full sequence of Love Alone: 18 Elegies For Rog, so I've ordered a second-hand copy of that, which should hopefully be waiting for me when I get back to Warwick. (Many thanks to Hasan for helping to collect my post these past few weeks!) Once I finish the Monette, I'm going to read Thom Gunn's The Man With Night Sweats for the third time. In other news, Eunoia Review reached another milestone today, as I accepted a submission that takes the journal's queue of work till its second anniversary! It's been an interesting ride so far, the most recent incident being my realisation that prior to sending an e-mail submission, one writer apparently thought it was okay to send her submission as a Facebook message because she claimed she couldn't find how to submit to the journal on the WordPress site. It's a bit hard to believe, given that the site's navigation bar is uncluttered and happens to have a link labelled 'Submissions'. The irony? This writer must have put on her glasses or something, as she subsequently 'liked' the Submissions page. Was left genuinely perplexed by this one, not to mention that even in her e-mail, she seemed to assume that I was going to click to her blog to find other poems that I might want to publish, besides the single one that she pasted in the body of her e-mail. Sometimes, I do not understand what goes through the minds of writers.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Episode 1343: Semi-procrastination?

Haven't written the review, but I have finally done the synopsis to submit together with my novel extract to this competition I'm entering just for a lark, since there's no contest fee. Probably not the best of reasons to commit to potentially having to write a whole novel, but then again, why not, right? Anyway, in light of having done the synopsis, I might cut myself some slack and just do the review tomorrow instead. Have started reading Ryan Frawley's Scar as well, which I'm enjoying so far, although I'll try to get through a bit more before letting Craig know about planning a giveaway. It feels a bit like House Of Leaves and I'm basically a sucker for anything that's even vaguely like that novel. (Side note: I'm really excited that The Fifty Year Sword is finally being reissued by Pantheon. I think that novella was originally published in the Netherlands, hence extremely difficult to find, and prohibitively expensive to purchase once found anyway. Have already placed a pre-order through The Book Depository.) Next I'm going to start reading for my EN954 essay, the title of which I had to scroll through my Facebook Timeline to find. At least that's finally proved useful for something...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Episode 1342: WP Keeps Hougang

Haven't written the chapbook review and I'm watching Mirrors on TV now, so it's highly unlikely I'll be writing it tonight. Well, there's always tomorrow, right? My dad finally hooked the VCR back up to the TV yesterday, so I managed to finish watching the remaining episodes of Perfect Deception. I was right! Rebecca Lim's character was a clone! What I didn't expect was the second twist of her mother going nuts and trying to kill her. Anyway, today was the Hougang by-election, and boy were my friends and I wrong when we were predicting the WP's winning margin! I was personally expecting 55% or less for the WP, but I guess the PAP characteristically went for overkill in attempting to discredit the opposition candidate and it backfired, since he won with 62.09% of the vote. Now the really interesting question is whether this new guy will stand in Hougang again for GE 2016. I mean, I doubt it was his compelling personality that gave him such a big win this time. (By extension, I'll be waiting to see if the PAP guy stands for election again too.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Episode 1341: Old Empire & Boon Tong Kee

Went for cell, and then met up with Claudia and Derrick for drinks at Old Empire, which was really easy to get to from church. Would've made it there sooner, except a 970 pulled away from the bus stop just as I was about to reach it, so I had to wait for the next one. (Could have taken 186 and walked a bit further, but that bus didn't turn up while I was waiting.) Tried this cider at Old Empire that tasted like mildly alcoholic apple juice, so I quite enjoyed that. Tsz San and Yvonne joined us as well, and we pretty much stayed till the place closed, and then walked a couple of minutes down the road for chicken rice. Think it might've been the first time that I've tried Boon Tong Kee. (I'm actually very unsavvy when it comes to major food places in Singapore.) The outlet was pretty upmarket on the inside, with quirky touches like construction paper for placemats and utensil wrappers. Was good to meet up with everyone again and catch up! Kind of hard to believe that it's been seven years since we graduated from RJC and that we're all in our mid-20s now.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Episode 1340: And Then Full Steam Ahead!

Have just finished the review for Rolli's God's Autobio and sent it off to James. This means that I'll definitely be able to get the chapbook review to Lindsey by Sunday, and it's about time I did that. I've had this chapbook since before Christmas! While procrastinating in the afternoon, I finally started reading The Hunger Games, since I realised that Natalie has the boxed set. I can definitely see why the trilogy's enjoying such wild success and being hailed as the new Twilight or the new Harry Potter. Not sure if I'm going to read it all before I go back to the UK though (only read the first chapter), just because I don't really feel like it would be the best use of my leisure reading time. Not trying to be snobbish here, just being practical. I'm sure if I wanted to find the trilogy back in the UK, all the local libraries would have it anyway, so I might as well spend my time on stuff I can't find as easily. Like all my issues of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, the latest of which arrived in the post yesterday. I'm still missing a few of the earliest issues of that because they're out of print, obviously.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Episode 1339: A Pause For Breath

So I finished reading God's Autobio before heading to my cousin's wedding dinner, and with one exception, I like all the stories in the collection. That exception is crucial though, as it's going to keep my review from being just effusive praise for Rolli's stories. Will probably aim to finish that review tomorrow, and then do the one for Nathan Thompson's chapbook on Friday. Ideally, that'll be the plan anyway. I'm giving myself till Sunday night to finish both reviews, and then I'm switching to focus on my academic work for a week. I'll still be reading stuff for reviews, probably Ryan Frawley's Scar since I need to let Craig know about doing a book giveaway for that, but I won't be trying to get any more reviews written until I've added more words to my dissertation. Have also offered to be part of the Submission Bombers Facebook experiment, but have sensibly specified that 'bombing' should only take place from September onwards. Knowing me, I'd be way too tempted to clear submissions to maintain my turnaround time, at the expense of doing any sort of academic work!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Episode 1338: Maintaining Momentum...

Finished Nathan Thompson's chapbook last night, and I think I've got the angle for my review figured out now, partly inspired by Rupert Loydell's blurb on the back cover. Am now alternating between reading God's Autobio and an issue of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Rolli's stories definitely read to me like stuff that would appear in McSweeney's, and I'm loving it so far. Definitely won't have problems writing the review for this one! (As for McSweeney's, I'm reading No. 11, a gorgeous black hardback with gold embossing, which feels like a very persuasive case for the continued existence of physical books.) Speaking of reviews, after I posted the link for yesterday's review to Facebook, Nick Sweeney, fellow Unthank Books' author, offered to print off a copy and send it along to Alan Brownjohn, as they know each other and Brownjohn's 'non-web-friendly', so to speak. That was a pleasant surprise, and I guess it would be sort of fun to hear back from Brownjohn and to find out his reaction to the review.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Episode 1337: Finally Wrote Another Review

Have written the review for Alan Brownjohn's The Saner Places: Selected Poems, and I'll post a link once Chloe's put the review up on The Cadaverine. I think it's the longest I've written so far, clocking in just shy of 1100 words. It went smoother than I was expecting though (see yesterday's post), so that was nice. Next review to write is probably Nathan Thompson's the day maybe died (tributes and torch songs) Imagining China, once I've reread it, or Rolli's God's Autobio, which I haven't read yet but have told James I'll review by the end of the month. I figure that if I can get some reviewing out of the way this week, I can do some academic work next week, before heading back to the UK. Think it'll have to be dissertation writing, just so that I can have some fresh material to show my supervisor the week after I get back. Edwin Thumboo hasn't replied to my e-mail of questions, but I kind of learnt what I wanted to find out about the anthology's genesis from quizzing one of the featured poets and one of the ladies involved in collating poems from the CAP participants, so I guess that's good enough. For me anyway, if not for my supervisor. Have to keep reminding myself that the point of my dissertation is not to get the anthology poets to dissect their poems!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Episode 1336: Making Progress (But Not Enough Of It)

Am just over halfway through Alan Brownjohn's The Saner Places: Selected Poems, and so far, there are some witty poems that I really like, but then there are also quite a few poems that just do nothing for me, although I suspect part of it is cultural, as the book draws from collections over several decades and I've read till around the 1980s so far. Slightly at a loss as to how to structure my review, for now anyway. Not sure I have enough material in mind to reach 1000 words! Hopefully, something will really bowl me over within the next 90-plus pages, as this review's technically already overdue. As are the next two that I'll be writing, come to think of it. Gosh, I've really fallen behind these holidays instead of catching up, haven't I? So much for trying to do lots of work and catch up on some novel reading. Guess that means I'll be lugging all the China Miéville stuff back to the UK? I've always had this tendency to be wildly optimistic about the amount of leisure reading that I'll actually do, either when in Singapore or back at Warwick. Given that I'll never be freer than I am now, as a university student, I think it's safe to say that I may never finish reading all the books that I own.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Episode 1335: Darkest Timeline Alert!

It's official. Dan Harmon won't be returning as showrunner for Season 4 of Community. Still, at least the guys taking over have worked on Happy Endings, which I consider to be the next best hope for American comedy, once Community goes down in a blaze of glory. (On a tangent, how awesome was the Season 2 finale of Nikita? Most underrated show on The CW, and with that finale, seriously vying with The Vampire Diaries for best show on the network. I hope the TV pundits are right and that a Season 3 pickup means Season 4 is practically a guarantee, purely to reach the required episode count for syndication purposes.) On a brighter note, a story I nominated for storySouth's Million Writers Award has been listed as one of the Notable Stories of 2011. The story's Heather Hall's 'Someone Else's Fairy Tale', and I'm really proud that it's been included in the list. Keeps me believing that the work I'm doing as an editor is worthwhile, you know? Also met up with Claudia for a bit of a wander around the National Museum, which then turned into a wander around town that went from Starbucks at The Cathay, to drinks at No. 5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar (although we left before 2-for-$16 martinis), to H&M (which I swear never to shop at), and finally, to Kinokuniya (where I picked up the three-volume Vintage International paperback of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, which I hadn't even realised was out). So all in all, a pretty good day, I guess, despite the Harmon thing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Episode 1334: #sixseasonsandamovie

So with yesterday's trio of episodes that closed its third season, Community demonstrated why it's one of the most innovative comedies airing now. (Nick Chen, if you're reading this, there is absolutely no way that Party Down is funnier.) Of course, they also proved why the show has struggled to find the sort of audience that 'safer' comedy fare like The Big Bang Theory can garner. Yes, I'm calling it a 'safe' comedy. Given the stellar ratings this draws, it should be obvious it's hardly as demanding on its viewers as something like Community, where to some extent, the viewer has to do some work most of the time in order to really get the jokes, many of which work as self-referential, ongoing gags. Besides, it's not like US audiences are great arbiters of quality these days. For proof, just look at all the people watching 'reality' TV and the increasingly ridiculous competition shows. (Not that I'd consider Community to have 'sold out' if its ratings suddenly doubled. Obviously, it would just mean that a whole bunch of Nielsen families had suddenly got pieces of their brain injected back in by Walter Bishop, right?) There are rumblings online that Dan Harmon won't be coming back with Season 4 of Community, which has only been given a 13-episode order and also been shunted to Fridays on the assumption, openly stated by NBC, that its niche audience will follow (probably true, but clearly a shabby excuse for deliberately spiking a show's chances). That would be a shame, and despite the vanquishing of Dark Abed in this season's finale, would truly plunge us into our darkest timeline. One can only hope that should the rumours prove true, whoever takes over for the next (and final?) season will still manage to be as inventive as Harmon. (Oh, who am I kidding? Six seasons and a movie, I still believe!)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Episode 1333: A Reviews Section?

Ah, that awkward state of affairs when you have reviews pending for all your editors and something new comes in to you for review. I'm starting to get more review requests coming directly to me, almost all via Eunoia Review. For some reason, I guess people seem to be under the impression that the journal publishes reviews, although I've never run one before and there's no section for it anywhere on the site. It's beginning to make me think that maybe I might as well start one, but I'm still resisting the idea for now because it isn't exactly what I envisioned with the journal. Not to mention if I was going to be implementing something new on Eunoia Review, I'd rather it be that idea of featuring audio-only work. At least I have friends who are up for handling that side of things, whereas adding a reviews section would just be giving myself more work that I don't need right now. I suppose I could find people to handle it as well, but at the moment, the only people whose judgement I trust enough when it comes to reviews are all tied up in projects of their own too. In any case, unless the volume of unsolicited reviews goes up even further, I should still be able to get by with offering to write the reviews and have them published instead in the places I currently review for anyway.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Episode 1332: Ditto...

Day began with a weird e-mail from someone withdrawing a submission I'd already rejected. Is this why I have so many incomplete reports on Duotrope's Digest? Are these would-be contributors just not getting my replies, be they acceptances or rejections? Felt bad when I did it, but I sent an e-mail back to this lady, explaining that a reply had already been sent to her, within 12 hours of my receiving her submission. (Yeah, that's usually the true turnaround time for a submission to Eunoia Review, believe it or not. It's actually a small source of pride and satisfaction that since the journal gained enough reported responses to be eligible for inclusion, it's never fallen out of the top 25 Swiftest Poetry/Fiction Markets. Hasn't taken a monumental amount of effort, but to be fair, that's partly because I'm not a working adult yet.) Anyway, regarding the potential review I mentioned yesterday, I've managed to get Craig at Rum & Reviews Magazine to ask around if anyone else on the reviewing team would be up for that environmental fiction debut novel, so fingers crossed he'll find someone and I can put the author in touch with him. Much as I want to do the review myself since I was approached personally, I really can't afford to take on another review, especially of a full-length novel!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Episode 1331: Still Procrastinating (But Not For Much Longer)

Went with the MA anthologies, and I'm on the third of the four that I own. Could move on after these to that series of Ox-Tales short story anthologies from Oxfam that I bought more than a year ago (ironically, they weren't new copies but donations to an Oxfam in London), but I really need to clear my reviewing backlog. If I do no other work while I'm back in Singapore (as looks increasingly likely), at least I want to have done that! I counted yesterday, and I have six pending reviews for five editors, albeit some with no fixed deadline. This isn't counting two batches of stuff that I expect to be waiting for me by the time I get back to the UK, which could well double the number of reviews I need to do. I'm thinking once these are all done, I should take a break until my dissertation's finished in September, or at least pass on more reviewing opportunities than not. I've sort of made a start on that by not acquiescing to a request for a review that was sent to me in my capacity as editor of Eunoia Review. In the past, I'd have tried to shop the review to one of my editors, and if anyone expressed interest in running the review, only then would I accept the request. I'm thinking I might still refer the guy to someone, just to help him out.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Episode 1330: What To Read Next (For Procrastination)?

Continuing my streak of finishing up books that I've been meaning to finish since forever (and avoiding doing any real work), I've read Leo Benedictus's The Afterparty. I like it, and I think it lands on the right side of postmodern pretension. Just. It plays with fonts to distinguish between narrators, which isn't as outré as it sounds once you've read Mark Z. Danielewski's House Of Leaves, and it wraps its novel-within-a-novel in a framing narrative composed of e-mails that explains the genesis of the overall work. I think it's an entertaining read, regardless of how you feel about its tricks, and I'm looking forward to Benedictus's next work. The question now is what I should read next. For procrastination, I mean. I've started reading the Warwick MA in Writing anthologies that I have, but I could just as easily start reading The Warwick Review. Or another of China Miéville's novels, though I'm thinking of bringing those back to the UK. Or I could sort of combine work and pleasure by reading Mark Doty's My Alexandria. It probably isn't going to make it into my EN954 essay, since I'd already decided to focus on Thom Gunn and Paul Monette for that, but as a collection of AIDS elegies, it might be tangentially relevant, I guess.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Episode 1329: Characters Welcome

So Common Law has finally premiered on the USA Network. To some extent, it really is another paint-by-numbers, 'blue sky' dramedy, joining programming like Psych, Burn Notice, Royal Pains, White Collar, Covert Affairs, Fairly Legal, Suits, and Necessary Roughness. The cable channel has insanely consistent branding, much like the way The CW still tends to be associated with nothing but teen dramas, despite airing fare like Nikita and Supernatural. So it's easy to like a show like Common Law, since practically all original programming from USA seems genetically engineered to be likeable. On the other hand, it isn't exactly the most innovative of buddy cop dramas, but I guess it's not really trying to be anyway? So to criticise it on that basis, as several TV critics have been doing, seems to miss the point of USA's programming entirely. I mean, it's surely more anodyne fare than lots of network stuff. I personally love the light-hearted silliness of USA's dramedies, which make for perfect summer television viewing. Anyway, I stayed up last night to finish reading SJ Watson's Before I Go To Sleep, which is a decent thriller, even though it takes a while to really get going. Felt somewhat cheated by the ending, which seemed a little too contrived. There's apparently a film adaptation in development, and oddly enough, I somehow think the twist in the ending would work better on the big screen, whereas the novel's prose verges on tedious by the end. It seems that this novel was a huge deal when it came out, but having read it myself, I'm now inclined to consider it overhyped.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Episode 1328: Lots Of Catching Up To Do...

Have spent the week reading books that I didn't have to. Started off with the YesYes Books, so that was Thomas Patrick Levy's I Don't Mind If You're Feeling Alone, Nate Slawson's Panic Attack, USA, and Gregory Sherl's Heavy Petting. Glad I bought them, might look at getting the poetry ebooks next, especially if I'm getting an iPad. Also finished reading Alfian Sa'at's Malay Sketches last night, which didn't disappoint. They're mostly flash fictions, accompanied by illustrations, so they make for quick reads, perfectly suited to people starved for attention spans. Another book just arrived for me to review, so that's gone onto the pile of stuff that I need to catch up on. Top of the to-read pile at the moment is Alan Brownjohn's The Saner Places: Selected Poems, which I've started on but keep putting down because I get distracted. In TV-related news, it's a shame that GCB and The Secret Circle have been cancelled. I felt both shows were finally beginning to hit their stride, but at least ABC has finally announced it's renewing Happy Endings and The CW has granted more seasons for Hart Of Dixie and Nikita! I hope that Phoebe Tonkin gets cast in something else soon though. If The Secret Circle could be said to have a breakout star, she was it, without a doubt. Surprised the show got axed, as I'd thought it was getting a decent percentage of the coveted 18-49 demographic for something airing on The CW, and that's pretty much the metric by which a TV show rises or falls these days. Guess the numbers were just too weak for something getting the best lead-in on the network (i.e. The Vampire Diaries)?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Episode 1327: Community's Been Renewed!

So it's that time of year when the shows that premiered in autumn or winter are airing their finales. Have to say, the finales for The Secret Circle and The Vampire Diaries were pretty epic. It's particularly surprising for the former show, which has really struggled creatively in its freshman season. Surprisingly, online buzz suggests that it might be in danger of cancellation, despite being a sister show to The Vampire Diaries, by far The CW's best-performing show. Still, I like how the show's mythology is finally starting to open up, although at times it's hard to swallow just because of how pedestrian the show's initial episodes were. The finale of The Vampire Diaries, on the other hand, was a complete game-changer! Not sure what it means for the show's storylines going into Season 4, but on a side note, The CW now absolutely has to order Cult to series, just to keep Matt Davis on our screens. Community has also been renewed by NBC, albeit for a shortened 13-episode run. The word is that with a fresh slate of comedy pilots, NBC is picking up its returning comedies for 13-episode runs across the board. Let's hope some of the new comedies crash and burn so badly in comparison to Community that the network executives reconsider and order a full season midway through the 2012/13 TV season!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Episode 1326: I'll Be In Unthology No. 3!

So that postal submission I sent to Unthank Books about two weeks ago? It's paid off. 'The Triptych Papers' (aka my EN236 portfolio) is going to be published in Unthology No. 3, 1 November 2012! I'm really excited about this because I enjoy the stuff Unthanks Books has been publishing, so it's a great honour to be included in the new anthology. Now I just need to figure out a way to come back to the UK for a holiday that coincides with the book launch at the Unthank Literary Festival in Norwich. (Either that, or save up enough money so that I can rent a place for a couple of months after my campus room let ends!) On the editing and reviewing side of things, today I managed to clear the submissions I've been sitting on for The Cadaverine and The Conium Review, as well as write that review of Squawk Back that I owe Richard for Sabotage Reviews. By pure coincidence, my delay in writing it means that the review of a milestone issue (#50) is going up in the month when Squawk Back marks one year since publishing its first issue, so I suppose that's a nice bit of dovetailing. Am also almost entirely caught up on my TV shows following the staycation, just have the new Game Of Thrones to go.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Episode 1325: What If Joss Whedon Ruled Tinseltown?

So I know I'm late to this (as I tend to be with movies), but dear America, can we please agree to let Joss Whedon make all your superhero movies in future until he's dead? I saw both The Avengers and The Cabin In The Woods this afternoon, and my conclusion is that Hollywood should just put itself on a silver platter and offer itself up as a sacrifice to Whedon immediately. Watched the former in a theatre with a handful of tweenagers. The girls in the row behind me, who couldn't have been older than 14, were clearly just hoping for Chris Evans to take his shirt off. (He didn't. There was practically no skin flashed in this movie, which considering the combined attractiveness of the cast, was no mean feat in itself.) They also clearly knew next to nothing about the Avengers, which is okay, since I'm not exactly 100% clued in either (always been more of an X-Men guy), but they kept us this running commentary of bewilderment. At one point, after a classic Whedonesque scene, one of them asked, 'What just happened?' Exact same question was asked again later by another one. Just watch the damn show and look everything up on Wikipedia later like the rest of us! Although I love how Whedon basically made a superhero film that simultaneously plays things straight and parodies the genre (right down to how characters behaved and interacted), my favourite moments were pretty much whenever Robert Downey Jr. spoke. I mean, I loved him as Sherlock, but if this is what Iron Man was like in both the movies that preceded The Avengers, I've clearly been missing out.

If the parodic nature of The Avengers could sail right over an audience (and rest assured, it definitely did for many people), no one could possibly have failed to realise what was up with The Cabin In The Woods. (I experienced a brief moment of hilarity when I realised that Chris Hemsworth was in this movie too.) With The Cabin In The Woods, the slasher film basically gets deconstructed, in a way that reminded me of how Community does its genre parodies with a wink and a nod. It's all wrapped up in a wacky cross between Whedon's Dollhouse (hello, Amy Acker!) and the supernatural elements of something like Stephen King's Pet Sematary or Clive Barker's Hellraiser (I hope at least someone else in the audience with me noted the resemblance of the item Hemsworth's character was handling to Lemarchand's box, before the appearance of the Pinhead-like character in the second half of the film). A bit too much is left unexplained by the end, regarding how the whole global outfit came into being, but that was okay, I guess. My point still stands. Hollywood, bow down to Whedon. Now. Between him and Dan Harmon, pop culture could be remade into something more intelligent than the cult of celebrity, I just know it!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Episode 1324: Massive BooksActually Haul

Finally met Shirley this afternoon to exchange an Innocent smoothie for all my stuff from BooksActually. Thanks for getting me an autographed copy of Alfian Sa'at's Malay Sketches for my birthday! Yet another book that I'm looking forward to reading, as Alfian's one of my favourite local writers, and I mean that for poetry, fiction and drama. Have caught up with Eunoia Review submissions, reading and scheduling, so tomorrow, I need to finally take care of that prose submission for The Cadaverine. Looks like all the pieces in it are fairly long, so that'll probably be the only thing I do tomorrow, apart from watching The Avengers and The Cabin In The Woods. Still haven't e-mailed Thumboo, but I'm thinking now that I've e-mailed one of the people who collated poems from the CAP participants, I'm going to see what she can tell me first, so that I can narrow down the scope of my questions for him. Still going to aim to get two reviews done by this weekend, since I've already read the material. Have to anyway, as it's coming up to mid-May soon, and I've got a 1000-word review due in then, of a poet whose work I've never encountered before, prior to accepting the book for review.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Episode 1323: Happy Birthday, Robert Browning!

Had no idea that I share a birthday with Robert Browning. Not exactly one of my favourite poets, but I don't dislike his work either, and I do find his relationship with his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, somewhat inspirational. Also, congratulations to François Hollande on being voted into office by the French people (well, slightly over 51% of those who voted anyway), giving the country its first Socialist president since another François, François Mitterrand, was elected in 1988. I am going to miss Nicolas Sarkozy's really crisp pronunciation though. My French tutor used to recommend that we listen to his presidential speeches as training for listening. No idea if she agreed with his politics though! On another birthday-related note, my order from YesYes Books arrived today, so that Thomas Patrick Levy's I Don't Mind If You're Feeling Alone, Gregory Sherl's Heavy Petting, and Nate Slawson's Panic Attack, USA that'll be keeping me company for the next couple of days, when I'm not writing my reviews. (Of course, I'm going to finish reading Smith Journal first!)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Episode 1322: Stomach Flu Woes...

Finished reading Robopocalypse, which was definitely reminding me of Falling Skies by the end. It was a nice touch, the revelation of Archos's motivations for starting the New War. I'd more or less figured that was going to be the explanation for its actions, but I liked how in Wilson's novel, it didn't feel like technology was being demonised, given the crucial role played by cybernetically enhanced transhumans and sentient humanoid robots in defeating Archos. The structure of the novel also seemed like it would lend itself really well to TV adaptation, although science fiction fare tends to struggle to find an audience these days, at least on the American Big 5 networks. I suppose a film adaptation would work too, but it would have to be handled by someone who can be really smart about genre, like Joss Whedon. (Really want to see The Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers!) Am now returning to Leo Benedictus's The Afterparty because the family's on a staycation at the Swissôtel Merchant Court. Suffering from a bout of stomach flu at the moment, so couldn't really enjoy the lunch buffet earlier today. Also using not feeling well as an excuse to put off writing my outstanding reviews, but I should hopefully be back on the job in a day or two. Going to use this week to catch up, and then I'll spend the rest of the month getting on with essay and dissertation reading. Not sure if I'm going to actually aim to write anything before I get back to the UK. I really should, I suppose, so maybe just a few thousand words to expand on sections of my conference paper? Going to have to look into visiting the National Archives at some point, to try and find documents relating to the creation of the Merlion. Would be nice to be able to cite primary source material like that in the introduction of my dissertation, right?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Episode 1321: Yuppie Living

Met up with some JC friends for lunch and coffee today. The funny story behind that is that Claudia somehow managed to save my mobile number under Vivien's name, so for a day or so after I'd got back to Singapore, Claudia thought she was arranging to meet Vivien for lunch, until I chatted with her online. It's like a subplot straight out of Happy Endings or something! We had coffee at Maison Ikkoku after lunch, which is one of those quirky/stylish coffee places that've been popping up in Singapore lately as an alternative to chains like Starbucks. The place is pretty small, so there isn't much seating, though it actually spans two storeys (the upstairs section sells menswear and turns into a cocktail bar come evening). It's basically quite a yuppie sort of place, I guess. Nothing wrong with that though. Like I was saying to Claudia and Tsz San, maybe we should just own our yuppieness. The whole of Haji Lane is this weird mix of indie and ultra-trendy shops. Don't go there often myself, but I can see the appeal. It's unthreateningly bohemian, that's how I'd describe it. Like an antidote to capitalist machinations, but I suspect a significant percentage of the people flocking to it are in fact pretty well-heeled, considering the prices in one of the menswear shops we stepped into after coffee. (They were selling copies of Math Paper Press's Babette's Feast chapbooks though, so I approve.) Finished reading Jim Butcher's Side Jobs today as well, a companion collection of short stories to his ongoing Dresden Files series of novels. Can't wait for the next novel! There's something compulsively readable about Butcher's prose, especially the way he's managed to give Harry Dresden a really distinctive voice. I've yet to pick up another urban fantasy series, though I've owned Mike Carey's novels for ages now. I'm interested to see how they stack up, so I might just make those my mandatory holiday reading, once I'm done with Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Episode 1320: Dissecting TV

So that was a pretty epic episode of The Vampire Diaries, even by that show's standards. Am interested to see how the storylines pan out in the season finale next week, and what's going to be set up for Season 4. (The Secret Circle wasn't too bad, but I think I've mentioned before that that show has finally started to come into its own. Here's hoping it'll get a renewal!) On a related note, The CW has also announced renewals for Supernatural (no surprise there) and 90210 (not really surprising, I guess). I'm assuming these are full season pickups, although I'm sceptical about another 22 episodes of 90210's storytelling. This week, it definitely showed signs of becoming like Gossip Girl, in that I can't tell if the writers are being self-aware and taking digs at the show's plotting, or they're just incredibly lazy and bad writers. I think with Gossip Girl, it's become clear that the writers are demonstrating self-awareness because while everyone else's storylines are pretty much random and pointless now, Blair's have been consistently interesting, barring the whole royal wedding fiasco. It helps that Leighton Meester seems to be the only cast member still committed to portraying her character and the craziness of a teen-turned-adult soap, as opposed to just phoning it in like Blake Lively seems to have been doing for a season or more now. Also didn't think this week's episode of Community quite justified the death last week, which seemed more like a plot contrivance to set up the storylines that will close the season, but as long as the remaining four episodes are zany, I'll let it slide. Hopefully, the fact that NBC rescheduled the last three episodes to air on the same night means that they're actually connected enough to form a three-part mega season finale. Community has always been good with madcap finales, right?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Episode 1319: Not Too Jetlagged, Surprisingly

Have been reading the new issue of Lucky Peach. So far, it hasn't really grabbed me the way the first two did, partly because it's focused on cooks and chefs, as opposed to particular foods like ramen or desserts, and the subject doesn't quite appeal to me in the same way. I mean, it's still an interesting read, which is practically a given for anything coming out of the McSweeney's publishing empire, just not a consistently hunger-inducing one. Only sporadically. Definitely renewing my subscription though! Have yet to subscribe to the other magazines in the McSweeney's family because I was considering one of the combo subscriptions after I'd picked up all back issues of The Believer, but I've looked and they don't seem to offer those on the site anymore. Guess I'll just have to take out individual subscriptions then. Once I'm done reading Lucky Peach, I'm going to have a look at Smith Journal, the counterpart for men to Australian magazine Frankie. It feels hefty for a magazine, which is perhaps a bit clichédly masculine as a design element, but its matte pages do make for a welcome visual change from the glossies. Haven't got any work done today, obviously, although I did reply to a couple of e-mails, so more like housekeeping stuff than actual work. (So basically, I don't think I'm going to be contacting Thumboo again until after this weekend.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Episode 1318: ...Temporary Return

It's so weird that download speeds from all the usual file hosting sites are so slow when I'm in Singapore, but Netload, which used to be fantastic wherever I was, but is now excruciatingly slow in the UK, is actually sort of okay in Singapore. I'm sure it's related to where all the various servers are housed, but still, it's ridiculous that apart from MediaFire, nothing seems to work when accessed from Singapore. Unless I buy a premium account, I suppose. Anyway, I'm back in Singapore for a month, and I'm already beginning to wilt under the tropical heat. Also, it turns out that my copy of the first issue of Smith Journal did arrive, and it was just Natalie not checking properly. Not sure what I'm going to do with the replacement copy when it arrives now. Maybe find someone to buy it off me, or give it away as a present? Speaking of spare copies, I do still have a paperback of China Miéville's Embassytown up for grabs, in case anyone's interested! It was the duplicate when my initial order from The Book Depository took ages to arrive, and then right after I inquired about its whereabouts and a replacement was dispatched, the original book turned up in the post. Obviously I wasn't going to send it back at my expense, since the mess was entirely not my fault.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Episode 1317: ...In Transit...

Carry-on wasn't weighed, so score! Entire row to myself, so that I could actually lie down for a nap, also score! Wasn't as impressed by the in-flight movies on this flight though. I started off with Underworld: Awakening, which pretty much looked like it was directed by Michael Bay, except it wasn't. Was slightly confused by why Kate Beckinsale's character could walk in the sun, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and realised she did receive the ability as a gift from Alexander Corvinus in Underworld: Evolution. Way more perplexing was her ability to revive a dead vampire, though I did initially think it was a bold move to kill off Theo James's character, who was obviously meant to be the attractive (supernatural) male lead to Beckinsale's PVC-clad Selene. Ending of the film was clearly angling for a sequel, but really, I think that would be flogging a dead horse. Maybe even flogging the skeleton of that dead horse. A much more satisfying film was L'homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie (The Big Picture), based on the Douglas Kennedy novel and starring Romain Duris. I'll admit I only decided to watch it because I try to watch one French film, so it was either this or La Délicatesse (Delicacy) with Audrey Tautou. I don't quite know how to describe the film other than that it was very 'French'. The last film I saw was Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, which was just a harmless romp. Of course, its plot could never stand up to a reality check, but it clearly isn't intended to anyway, so criticising it for that would be churlish, right?